Out Of The Box Brownies: Magical brownie recipes that start with a box
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Bread Pudding Blondies with Whisky-Cream Sauce

May 24, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Blonde Brownie, Creative, Decadent, Holiday, Nut-Free, Nutty, Off the Beaten Path, Party

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You’ll be so dang pleased with yourself when you make this de-freakin’-licious recipe, so just get on it right now: It’s time to introduce your mouth to the fantasy-revelation of bread pudding blondies with a homemade whisky-cream sauce with toasted pecans. (The whisky is optional, but highly recommended.)

I’m salivating as I type this. Seriously.

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The amazing thing is that it all starts with a charmingly affordable mini-box of Jiffy brand yellow cake mix! Yep, that’s what I said. It’s probably less than a buck at your local market. Ain’t it cute?

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INGREDIENTS – BLONDIES

  • 8-9 cups stale bread, cut into cubes (I bought a 24-ounce sourdough loaf and used 3/4 of it)
  • 1 small box Jiffy yellow cake mix (9 ounces, or about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 Tbsp rum flavor or rum extract
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup fresh, soft raisins

INGREDIENTS – CREAM SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) Half & Half (or whipping cream, if you want it richer)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2-3 ounces whisky (or you can substitute 1 Tbsp rum extract + 1 tsp vanilla)
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

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DIRECTIONS

Cut your stale bread into about 1-inch cubes until you have about 8-9 cups. (If your bread isn’t stale, cut into cubes and expose them to air for a few hours. Stale bread does a better job of soaking up your golden delicious batter.)

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the dry cake mix with the ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. I like to use a fresh nutmeg and grate it myself; it makes my kitchen smell so good!

Add the eggs, oil, rum extract, and milk into the mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat for about 2 minutes on medium. This is your blondie batter.

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Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Put all your bread cubes into the pan and then pour all of the blondie batter over top, evenly distributing the batter so the bread will soak it up, leaving no overly dry bread cubes.

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While the bread is soaking, sprinkle the top with raisins. It’s looking good, isn’t it?

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Bake at 350 F for about 25-30 minutes. To test for doneness, try the toothpick test. Insert the toothpick into the center and look at how wet or dry the toothpick looks. If it’s glossy wet, it needs more time. If some small, moist pieces cling to the toothpick, the blondies are done (see photo below).

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The goal is to pull the blondies from the oven before the toothpick comes out completely clean and dry, which would indicate over-baking. (But this recipe has cream sauce, so if you overbake it, you’re still OK; you can pile on the cream sauce and still call it perfectly delicious!) Set the blondies aside and let them cool.

Now it’s time to make the cream sauce. Start by setting aside 1/4 cup of half & half into a small bowl. Pour the remaining 1 1/4 cups of half & half into a medium saucepan.

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Add sugar to the saucepan. Mix and cook over medium heat just until it bubbles, stirring occasionally.

While waiting for the sugar and cream to boil, mix 2 T of cornstarch into the 1/4 cup of half & half that you set aside in the bowl. Mix together; this is called a slurry.

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When the half & half reaches a light boil, pour in the cornstarch mixture and keep cooking on medium heat.

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In a minute or two, your cream sauce will be nice and thick. Now add the whisky (or rum extract + vanilla), the butter, and the toasted/chopped pecans. Mix it all together.

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If it’s too thick, you can add a few teaspoons of milk, water, or whisky to thin it out.

If it’s too thin for your preference, mix up another slurry of cornstarch-plus-liquid in a one-to-three ratio. You can use 1 Tbsp of cornstarch plus 3 Tbsp of water, or cornstarch plus milk, or cornstarch plus whisky, or cornstarch plus half & half. Add the slurry to the saucepan and cook on medium for another minute or two until it thickens up. (Never add powdered cornstarch by itself; it can create sticky lumps.)

To serve, cut a piece of bread pudding and heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Generously dollop some of that rich, smoky, warm cream sauce right on top. You might even put the cream sauce into a gravy boat and let your guests top their own! So decadent! Store leftover blondies and cream sauce in the refrigerator.

Oh, people. I’m swooning for this guest-worthy recipe. Just look at that photo. How can anyone resist the beauty and the crave-ability of this Bread Pudding Blondie with Whisky-Cream Sauce?

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Mucho Margarita Blondie

April 10, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Blonde Brownie, Chilled, Creative, Fruit, Holiday, Off the Beaten Path, Party, Salty-Sweet, Super-Simple

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On May 5, Cinco de Mayo, celebrate with a light, sweet, tart, creamy, lime-bliss concoction that will knock your party socks off: the Mucho Margarita Blondie! PS – It’s one of the easiest recipes on this whole site!

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INGREDIENTS

  • White chocolate macadamia nut cookie dough, 16-ounce package
  • Whipped topping, 12-ounce tub, thawed
  • 6 ounces frozen-concentrated limeade, thawed (I used half of a 12-ounce can)
  • 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup tequila
  • Optional food coloring, green and yellow
  • Optional garnish of flaked margarita salt or toasted flaked coconut
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DIRECTIONS
First, thaw both the frozen whipped topping and the frozen-concentrated limeade. While they’re thawing, you can bake the cookie crust and wait for it to cool.

If you love coconut and want to use it as a garnish, shake about 1/2 cup onto a cookie sheet in a thin layer. Bake at 350 F for about 5-7 minutes until it’s golden brown. Watch it carefully, because it will go from perfect to burned in a minute or two. Set coconut aside to use right when serving.

Into a greased 9×13-inch pan, spread the cookie dough, pressing it by hand into a thin layer. (If you want a thick crust, use a 9×9-inch pan and bake longer.)

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Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes, until the edges turn a rich, crispy brown. Set aside until it’s cooled completely.

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Now it’s time for the margarita part. This is so fast and easy, you will hardly believe it. In a bowl, add the thawed whipped topping (12 ounces), the thawed limeade (6 ounces), and the tequila (1/8 to 1/4 cup, depending on your taste). Stir with a rubber spatula until combined.

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At this point, your margarita topping will be zingy, creamy, and refreshing — but maybe not as pretty as it could be. If you like, try adding 5 drops of green food coloring and 2-3 drops of yellow. You could use a lot more food coloring, if you like, but I tend to use less. Just aim for it to have YOUR idea of a perfect margarita-esque appearance.

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Mix your margarita topping until it’s uniform in color. Pour your margarita topping over the cooled cookie crust and spread evenly.

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Refrigerate for 30 minutes so it sets up a little. Cut into serving-sized pieces.

If you want to balance the zing of lime and tequila, garnish right before serving with a tiny pinch of flaked margarita salt or with a big handful of toasted flaked coconut.

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That’s it! For your Cinco de Mayo party, go with a dessert that’s super simple, definitely delicious, and really refreshing: It’s the Mucho Margarita Blondie!

Red-Wine Caramel Brownie Sundae

February 21, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Caramel, Chilled, Creative, Decadent, Nut-Free, Party, Super-Simple

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There is one thing that red wine has in common with brownies, ice cream, and caramel: this super-simple out-of-the-box sundae recipe! Look at that! Fancy enough to serve at the finest event; easy enough to make any night of the week. You’ll be amazed, as were all of my “beta-testers.”

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Eggs, oil, and water as directed on the box
  • 1 and 1/2 cups red wine (I used a nice, plummy, smoky Shiraz)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • About 8 to 10 ounces (about 2/3 cup) of caramel topping for ice cream
  • Vanilla ice cream (get the good stuff; you deserve it)

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DIRECTIONS

Mix and bake brownies according to the box instructions. I always use the “extra egg” version of the recipe, usually in small print as a footnote on the box. The extra egg means less fudge-like and more cake-like. When done, remove from oven and let cool.

While brownies are baking and cooling, you can make this amazing, super-easy sauce that will make your brownie sundae worthy of the fanciest of dinner parties, the most special of family events, or the most romantic of celebrations. It begins with a wine reduction.

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Start by pouring red wine and ground cloves into a saucepan. Place on medium heat, no higher. It’s okay to let it bubble, just not to the point of foaming or a “rolling boil.” Just a nice, steady simmer of small bubbles.

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Stir every 1-2 minutes until you notice the amount of liquid in the pan is getting low. Total cooking time will be maybe 15-20 minutes.

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Your wine reduction is done when there is just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Don’t, I repeat, don’t let it go too far and boil away to nothing. At the end, the goal is to reduce your cup and a half of wine down to about 1/8 of a cup of intensely flavored wine.

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Mix your wine reduction together with the caramel topping. (You can make your own caramel from scratch if you prefer; it’s not as hard as you think. Try this simple recipe or this almost-as-simple recipe.)

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The intensely purple-red color of the wine reduction mixes with the toasty tan of the caramel to create a very pretty color.

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In a bowl or deep plate, put a brownie, one scoop of ice cream, and about a tablespoon of red-wine caramel — 2 tablespoons if your sundae feels like it!

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Super Bowl Truffles with Bacon and Porter Beer

January 14, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Creative, Decadent, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path, Salty-Sweet

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When the Super Bowl rolls around, I take my brownie blogging duties very seriously, and this year I’ve concocted a beer-and-bacon truffle that will please football party-goers across the nation. Behold! The Super Bowl Truffle, featuring a porter beer reduction with a smoky bacon kick.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate)
  • Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 12-ounce bottle of porter beer (I used Breckenridge Vanilla Porter)
  • 1 pound of raw bacon — cooked, drained, and crumbled (I used a shortcut with a 4.3-ounce bag of precooked Hormel Crumbled Bacon, which is the equivalent of 1 raw pound)
  • 12-16 ounces of chocolate candy coating (the kind you can melt and pour into candy molds)
  • A few pinches of flaked margarita salt, optional as a garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Bake brownies as directed on the box.

If you’re NOT using pre-cooked bacon, cook your bacon and drain it while the brownies are baking. Set the cooked bacon aside for later.

When the brownies are done baking, remove them from the oven and let cool.

Into a large, deep skillet, pour the brown sugar and porter beer.

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Cook on medium heat until it begins to get syrupy, stirring occasionally. (Don’t get impatient and turn the heat on high.) Using medium heat, it will take maybe 20 minutes or more to get a syrup-like thickness. When a liquid is cooked until it’s thick, that’s called a “reduction.” It concentrates the flavor; that’s why beer selection is important. A slightly bitter beer will turn into a very bitter reduction. To be safe, I chose a mild, rich, smooth porter.

Chop your bacon into fine crumbles. Add MOST of the bacon crumbles into your thickened beer reduction — but set aside about 3 tablespoons of the bacon crumbles to use later as a garnish. 20130114-203644.jpg

Cook for another minute or two. Mine was bubbly and thick. Remove from heat.

One more thing about the bacon…I took a shortcut and used pre-cooked Hormel bacon (this 4.3-ounce bag said it was the equivalent of 1 pound raw). If you do the same shortcut, be sure to check for a 1-inch-square “freshness packet” that may be inside; you don’t want to pour that into your reduction. See photo below. 20130114-203622.jpg

After cooking your porter beer reduction, it’s time to cut those brownies. First, cut off all the edges, which will be too crisp to be a part of your tender truffles. I ate my crusts as soon as I cut them out of the pan. You should, too.

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Cut your crust-free brownies out of the pan and into a large bowl. No need to cut them into squares or be neat about it. Add the bacon-and-beer reduction.

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Stir the brownies and reduction together until they’re well mixed into a thick, smoky-sweet dough. Get about a tablespoon of dough and roll between your palms into a truffle-sized ball. Place onto aluminum foil. Repeat until all the dough is gone.

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I’ve kind of fallen in love with this Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil. It really IS non-stick!

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In a microwave-safe container, melt your chocolate candy coating. I like to use a small container so that my truffles have a nice, deep bath to dip in. Drop one ball in so it gets coated completely. Then, using two forks, fish it out. Place it onto foil and, before it has the chance to dry, immediately garnish it with a sprinkling of bacon crumbles and maybe some margarita salt.

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Repeat this one truffle at a time: Dip, garnish. Dip, garnish. Dip, garnish. Until you’re done. Your football-loving sports fans who come over to watch the game will be amazed at these eye-popping chocolate treats that are easy to serve and eat: The porter-beer-and-bacon Super Bowl Truffle!